NetApp emphasizes simplicity, flash functionality in ONTAP 9 software

NetApp has also strengthened, and is now giving much greater emphasis to, its flash-focused 3-4-5 guarantee to customers.

Adam Fore Director, Virt. and Cloud Solutions Marketing.jpg

Adam Fore Director, Solutions Marketing, NetApp

Today, NetApp is announcing its new NetApp ONTAP 9 operating system, with the focus squarely on two issues: increased simplicity for users, and enhanced functionality, particularly around flash.

“ONTAP 9, the next generation of our software, has big enhancements to it around greater simplicity as well as expanding where it can be deployed,” said Adam Fore, Director of Solutions Marketing at NetApp. “We have also significantly enhanced enterprise grade features, with a focus on flash.”

The new version of ONTAP can be set up in as little as ten minutes.

“We have really simplified how fast it takes to get an environment up and running,” Fore said. “In the past, there was a lot of tuning, and for the everyday user it was a lot of extra work. Now there’s a lot of preconfiguration to best practises, and when it arrives on site there are templates based on specific applications to easily customize things.”

For enterprises with more specific needs, who want to fine tune things to specialized requirements, that can still be done.

“The wizards and templates simplify it for more general users,” Fore said.

Fore indicated that the management environment for ONTAP has also been significantly simplified, with a single console now managing all the instances of ONTAP.

“This unified console for application integration software is being rolled out as SnapCenter,” he said. “It lets you do things like look at the health of the system through a mobile device to see capacity utilization, or impact of actions on efficiency rates.”

Fore also pointed out that the move from ONTAP 8 to ONTAP 9 is much smoother than past version upgrades.

“The simplicity has really simplified this transition,” he said. “Moving from ONTAP 8 to ONTAP 9 is a non-disruptive download, whereas going from ONTAP 7 to 8 had been disruptive.”

NetApp is also expanding where ONTAP can run by making ONTAP 9 available as a software product.

“In the past, it was available as part of a storage appliance, in FlexPod, and in the cloud,” Fore said. “Now we are introducing OnTap Select, a new software-only version you can deploy on commodity servers. If the hardware meets the specs we have defined, it will install.”

Fore said the software version would be appropriate in Edge environments outside the data center that a customer wants to bring under their data management umbrella, and that it can run as a VM in this case. He also noted that it’s also available in High Availability configurations to make it more appropriate for data centre environments.

“Some of our largest customers have deployed commodity infrastructure for certain services, so are interested in this for file serving capabilities from commodity infrastructure,” he said.

Several new capabilities have also been introduced around flash. These start with support for the new 15 TB solid state drives.

“These drives are the largest out there, and we are the first to support them,” he said. “They let you put a petabyte of storage in a 2U shelf, which has a massive impact on the datacentre footprint. These larger drives also start to make flash more appropriate for workloads with higher capacity requirements. In the past, those tended to have been on disk. Now large virtual server farms make more sense on flash, so this really expands where it can be leveraged.”

New patented inline data compaction has been introduced. This allows more data to fit in a smaller footprint, and brings down the cost of flash beyond traditional compression and deduplication.

“The inline data compaction takes smaller size chunks of data and squeezes as many as possible into the 4k blocks we use to write to disk,” Fore said. “This will have the biggest impact on transactional workloads like databases.”

With ONTAP 9, NetApp is also giving greater emphasis to their 3-4-5 program as a way to promote the use of flash.

“The 3-4-5 program promises a 3 x performance guarantee, a 4-1 increase in efficiency and 5 ways to get started in flash.” Fore said. “It was there before, but we weren’t that vocal about it. The 4-1 guarantee of efficiency improvement over usable capacity obliges NetApp to provide additional disks to make up the difference if we fail to meet that. The 4 to 1 part is new, and is the most important element because it hits on the cost of flash.” Net App is now also packaging a free controller upgrade it introduced last fall as part of this program.

Other new features Net App announced include triple parity RAID.

“This is important for larger capacity drives that take a longer time to rebuild, and will soon be standard for very large capacity drives,” Fore said. “We have also added a feature called SnapLock allowing software-based WORM, where data can’t be altered. Financial services and government need this.”

Storage encryption has also been enhanced.

“Our self encrypted drives now support an onboard key manager for simplified management,” Fore said. “We are seeing a significantly higher uptake of self encrypted drives on flash compared to HD – about a 3x increase.”